The Olympic Ceremony is an event which extends the opportunity for a country to represent themselves and present their national identity to the world. This can be done in a number of ways, but when it is done, it is obvious and is often critiqued. Nathan Kalman-Lamb’s article, “‘A Portrait of This Country’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies” was written in 2012 and was published in TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. Kalman-Lamb examines the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and describes what he observed as a reflection of “whiteness at the core of Canada’s multicultural identity” (Kalman-Lamb 5). He argues that the ceremony celebrated white cultures in Canada, and gave the impression that Indigenous peoples are “part of a past that no longer exists” (15). Moreover, Kalman-Lamb admits that there was acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples in the ceremonies, but highlights the disparity between appropriation and appreciation. Ultimately, Kalman-Lamb explains that the ceremonies were a “performance of white pride and hegemony” (24).
Kalman-Lamb begins his article by explaining that hosting the Olympic games is “an opportunity…to enact [one’s] national identity” (6). He then critiques the ceremonies, recounting the means by which multiculturalism was highlighted. He explains that “rather than the broad spectrum of cultures that compose the Canadian nation,” there are “repeated representations of Indigenous culture” (7). However, while moving through the piece, it becomes clear that these representations are not repeated, but instead displayed exclusively at the beginning of the ceremony. The majority celebrates Canadian whiteness, and the need of a presence of Indigenous culture in the ceremony is basically checked off. Including Indigenous culture at only the beginning of the ceremony manifests modern Canada as “profoundly white” (17). While the opening ceremonies begin with performances of Indigenous identity, they end with displays of whiteness and thus “function as a” (23). The Vancouver 2010 Olympic ceremonies transform from an enactment of Canadian national identity into a “performance of white pride and hegemony” (24).
Kalman-Lamb effectively explains the faults of Canadian multiculturalism and how they were reflected in their Olympic ceremonies. However, a question arises of whether Canada intentionally proclaimed their whiteness, or if it was asserted inadvertently. Regardless of the answer to this question, Canada is at fault for merely displaying and not celebrating a culture, a fundamental aspect of multiculturalism. Canadian multiculturalism should serve to “attempt to produce equity and social justice by foregrounding and celebrating the ethnic diversity of Canadian society,” but in the context of the 2010 Olympic ceremonies, it “stand[s] in as a code word for imagined racial differences” (9).
Kalman-Lamb, Nathan. “‘A Portrait of This Country’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies.” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, no. 27, 2012, pp. 5-27, https://topia.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/topia/article/view/35266/32918. Accessed 7 March 2018.